So Can You Cook? 21

CELEBRATE – a guide for the festive season

Christmas again already! When I was in my teens and early twenties, I used to think that time took forever to progress. Now that I’m in my 50’s, I just wish it would slow down a bit.
I have to admit that I am trying to get out of preparing Christmas lunch this year. It always seems to be one of the hottest Christmas eves whenever you have to prepare food for the next day, and there is nothing like working in oppressive heat to put you off the thought of food. I don’t know how successful I’ll be – it’s in the hands of the mother-in-law – but I will be pushing for us to go somewhere where someone else has done all the work, and will do all the cleaning up.
This isn’t an option for many, for any number of reasons. So, I have attempted to try to help you out by creating a menu of minimum fuss dishes that will still represent Christmas in a sort-of-Aussie-traditional-way, and give you a minimum amount of work. I think we all like to impress when we are having family or friends for dinner, and especially when it is an important festive occasion.
Refreshing drinks – not necessarily alcoholic are great to have on hand, and for people to be able to scull down between glasses of champagne, wine or beer. Drinking alcohol in the heat can really debilitate the body, so it best to intersperse alcohol with other liquids during summer. Finger food can be easily put together, even if it is just a plate of dips, or a mezze or antipasta platter. Seafood is great for entrees, just don’t forget that the fish markets are closed on Christmas eve, so you will have to get your seafood the day before. Take an Esky with you to ensure that you keep it cool and retain its freshness. Get it straight into the fridge as soon as you get home. For lunch mains, buy a ham and maybe some smoked chicken. If you have the patience – and a cool kitchen – maybe cook a leg of lamb or a piece of pork to serve cold. Lots of salads are the order of the day – nobody really wants to be slaving over a stove on Christmas day. I make a Christmas cake – mainly because I have a great recipe that David’s grandmother loves – and make up some mince pies and shortbread, but that is as far as cooking goes these days. You can buy some really delicious Christmas puddings these days, other than Big Sister. Some brands to look out for are “Baylies of Strathalbyn”, “Newcastles Pudding Lady” and “Pudding Lane”. This way, you are not just getting a quality pudding, you are also supporting Australian producers. Then again, why not make an ice cream pudding and serve it up with a tropical fruit salad.
Finish off with some yummy shortbread and mince tarts, or a cheese platter.
Anyway my friends, once again I wish you all the very best for Christmas. Enjoy yourselves and don’t over-indulge. Muffin-tops aren’t a good look for summer. If you have any last minute requirements don’t forget that Alderman Providore is open 24/7, and has a select range of gifts, puddings, sauces and condiments to help you out with Christmas. Please visit us at I can pretty well guarantee next day deliver in Sydney for orders received early in the day.
Happy Christmas and a happy and safe New Year.

Have a jug of iced, flavoured water on hand for those who want a break from alcohol. Fill a large jug with filtered water and ice. Add two stalks of lemongrass with cross-cut ends, and two or three kaffir lime leaves that have been slightly torn to release the lime flavours.

Grapefruit and Cranberry Punch:
2 cups pink grapefruit juice (From supermarket)
1 cup cranberry juice (from supermarket)
750ml (3 cups) lemonade
1 small pink grapefruit, finely sliced.
Place sliced grapefruit and ice in a large jug. Add pink grapefruit juice, cranberry juice and lemonade. Serve in tall glasses.

Mandarin Buck’s Fizz:
3 tablespoons fresh mandarin juice (in chilled juice section of supermarket)
Sparkling wine

Put some ice and mandarin juice in a glass and top up with sparkling wine.


Chicken & Brie Baguette:
Brush slices of baguette with olive oil and bake in a 200°C oven until lightly toasted. Spread with some quince paste (or cranberry sauce), baby spinach, smoked chicken and brie.

Baked Pancette and Ricotta Cups:
6 slices pancetta, halved
120g fresh ricotta cheese
½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
30g goat’s cheese
¼ cup chopped chives
6 cherry tomatoes, halved

Preheat oven to 220°C. Press the pancetta into a greased 12-hole mini muffin tray to make 12 cases. Place the ricotta, parmesan, goat’s cheese and chives into a small bowl and mix well to combine. Spoon the mixture into the pancetta cases and top with the cherry tomatoes. Cook for 10 minutes or until the pancetta is crispy and the cheese is set.
Makes 12.


Salmon and Dill Pots with Crispy Toasts:
100g smoked salmon slices, finely chopped
1 teaspoon horseradish cream (from supermarket asian section – usually called wasabi and in a tube)
2 teaspoons chopped dill
1 tablespoon sour cream
sea salt and cracked black pepper
chopped dill, extra to serve
1 baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

Place the salmon, horseradish, dill, sour cream, saly & pepper into a small bowl and mix well to combine. Place the salmon mixture into 4 small dishes and sprinkle with the extra dill. Serve with the toast.
Serves 4

Mint, Chilli & Garlic Fetta:
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
1/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped
½ cup mint leaves, chopped
sea salt and cracked black pepper
250g fetta cheese, sliced
2 pieces flatbread, sliced into strips
olive oil, extra for brushing

place the lemon rind, oil, garlic, chilli, mint salt & pepper in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Place the fetta slices in a non-metallic bowl, pour over the lemon mixture and allow to marinate for 10 minutes.
Brush the flatbread strips with the extra oil and place on a baking tray under a pre-heated hot grill. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden and crisp.
Arrange the fetta slices on a plate and serve with bread strips.
Serves 4


Char-Grilled Prawns with Garlic Butter:
24 green prawns, heads removed and butterflied (Halve lengthways and spread out)
24 skewers, soaked in water
olive oil for brushing
garlic butter
250g butter, softened
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
sea salt and cracked black pepper

To make the garlic butter, place the butter, garlic, capers, lemon rind, parsley, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside.
Thread the prawns on the skewers, brush with oil and cook on a pre-heated grill for 2 minutes each side or until cooked through. Top with the garlic butter to serve.
Makes 24

Crab Salad with Lime & Chilli Dressing:
500g fresh crab meat
1 cup whole-egg mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 long red chilli, seeded and sliced
¼ cup chopped green shallots
¼ cup fresh lime juice
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 x banana flower, leaves separated (available from Asian supermarkets) or use fancy lettuce leaves
lime wedges, to serve

place the crab, mayonnaise, chives, chilli, shallots, lime juice, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Spoon the crab into the banana flower leaves (or lettuce leaves)in small serving bowls and serve with lime wedges.

Potato and Pancetta Salad:
16 slices pancetta
2 kg desiree potatoes, sliced
½ cup mint leaves
mustard dressing
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
sea salt and cracked black pepper

To make the mustard dressing, place oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the pancetta on a baking tray and cook for 4-5 minutes or until crispy. Set aside.
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling water. Bring to the boil and cook for 8-10 minutes or until tender. Drain and refresh under cold water. Layer the potato slices with the pancetta and mint leaves. Spoon over the mustard dressing and serve.
Serves 8

Green Bean Salad with Tarragon Dressing:
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
200g green beans, trimmed
6 stalks celery, thinly sliced
tarragon dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 shallot, finely chopped
sea saly and cracked black pepper

To make the tarragon dressing, place the oil, vinegar, tarragon, sugar, shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside.
Cook the asparagus in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes or until just tender. Remove and refresh under cold water. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water.
Arrange the asparagus, beans and celery on a serving platter and spoon over the tarragon dressing.
Serves 8


Berry Ice-Cream Pudding:
2 litres store-bought vanilla ice-cream, softened
1½ cups frozen raspberries
1½ cups frozen blueberries

Place the ice-cream and berries in a large bowl and stir well to evenly distribute the berries. Place the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes or until the ice-cream just starts to harden. Cut out a 60cm square of calico cloth. Place the calico in a bowl, spoon in the ice-cream and gather up the edges. Tie the calico with string to secure, and hang in the freezer over the bowl for 3 hours or until firm. Remove the pudding from the freezer, undo the calico and place on a plate. Cutthe pudding into slices and serve with the spiced custard.

Spiced Custard:
1 cup pouring cream
¼ cup brandy
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
1 cinnamon stick
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons caster sugar

Heat the cream, brandy, vanilla and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot (NOT BOILING) and remove from the heat. Discard the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.
Place the egg yols and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and pale. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Return to the saucepan and stir over low heat for 4 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Set aside and allow to cool.
Serve with the berry ice-cream pudding.
Serves 8

On a platter arrange a wedge of triple cream brie, a large wedge of cheddar (King Island for both, naturally), a wedge of blue cheese and as small bowl of Persian fetta. Add a bunch of dried muscatels, some dried apricots, some glace fruit, fresh grapes and containers of quince or fig paste and a fruit chutney. In a separate bowl have a mixture of grissini, water crackers and lavosh crisps.
Serve with shiraz champagne or a sweet dessert wine.

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2014

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